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Twilight by One Alternative
- posted by Candice Michelle on 4/26/2017
One Alternative - Twilight
Twilight is the eighth studio album by One Alternative, an acoustic fusion ensemble who blend elements of classical, jazz and rock music for an eclectically innovative sound. Comprised of nine compositions spanning forty-three minutes, the album showcases band members Jill Haley on oboe and English horn, and Mark Oppenlander on electric and acoustic guitars as well as bass and percussion, with guest musician James Mclaughlin lending piano and Hammond organ to one track. Four cover songs each by Billy Cobham, Simon and Garfunkel, Oregon and Craig Dobbins are included on the album, along with five original tunes composed by Haley and Oppenlander.

The opening Craig Dobbins cover, “Jojobean”, immediately leaps into a steady groove, with its folk-rock rhythm and guitars leisurely strumming along. A highly enjoyable ensemble piece that mostly retains the spirit of the original acoustic guitar composition, Haley’s classical woodwinds delicately weave in and out of the foreground of the sunny, uplifting tune. Following next is an equally engaging cover of Oregon’s “If”, which places heavier emphasis on the rhythm’s odd-time signature. Likewise highlighting an acoustic guitar and woodwind melody, the composition casually hovers between jazz and contemporary instrumental music. The duo also adds their own twist to Simon and Garfunkel’s “America”, giving this all-instrumental rendition of the originally lyric-sung piece a notably upbeat Americana-rock flavor, while its subtly trippy guitar textures and funky bass-laden groove emit a 1960’s psychedelic vibe. “Sunrift George” is among the album’s five original compositions, which is characterized by cascading acoustic guitar and a toe-tapping groove, as Jill’s signature woodwinds provide a catchy lead melody that could be easily hummed along to. I’m particularly fond of “Roadless Travel”, which exudes a subtle Latin flair with its sultrily flowing guitar textures and tropical-flavored percussion. Billy Cobham’s “Stratus” is the album’s fourth and final cover tune, featuring James Mclaughlin on piano and Hammond organ. Here, a piano-jazz riff intermingles with retro-style organ and electric guitar on what’s easily the most funk-laden, rock-steady composition of the lot. Winding things down is the serenely soulful original, “We’ll See What Happens”, which is characterized by intricately woven acoustics and smooth, rolling edges that highlight some of the album’s most beautifully detailed guitar work.

Warmly positive and easygoing while boasting just the right amount of edginess, Twilight takes the listener on an exciting trip through contemporary acoustic music that’s often laced with funky jazz licks, folk-rock sensibilities and subtle new age overtones. Eclectic and intricate yet down-to-earth, the thoroughly enjoyable numbers on this aptly-named album variably illustrate the rising and setting sun, as well as capture the many picturesque moments nestled in between. Smoothly weaving and winding around a scenic terrain, listening to these infectious tunes can be likened to taking a drive through the countryside with all its unpredictable stops and turns. An amazing ensemble whose elements individually shine throughout, the stellar musicianship on this recording is thoroughly rewarding, as they beckon the listener to join them along for a leisurely, adventurous ride that’s certainly well-worth taking! ~Candice Michelle (
Rating: Very Good +
Color Me Home by Darlene Koldenhoven
- posted by Candice Michelle on 4/26/2017
Darlene Koldenhoven - Color Me Home
Darlene Koldenhoven is a Grammy award-winning vocalist with an impressive resume that includes her role as the soprano soloist in the Yanni Live at the Acropolis performance, as well as having appeared in the movie Sister Act portraying a choir nun. Her ninth album, Color Me Home, is an exquisite eleven-track excursion which Darlene produced, engineered and composed the lyrics and music for, as well as sings, plays piano, synthesizer, native drums and shakers on. Beautifully and thoughtfully packaged, the CD includes a coloring book depicting images of nature, perfectly illustrating a spectacular collage of diverse arrangements and instruments. In what could perhaps be best described as a fusion of classical crossover, contemporary instrumental and new age vocal music with an often-touch of subtle world elements, the album’s track lineup alternates between sung lyrical compositions and instrumental pieces that feature wordless vocal intonations. Joining Darlene on this musical adventure is a team of talented artists, of which includes Tom Scott, Brent Fischer, Ricky Kej, Wouter Kellerman, Charlie Bisharat, David Arkenstone, Rocky Dawuni, Gayle Levant, Jeff Oster, Al Jewer, John Sarantos, Mike Miller, Lyn Bertles, Nick Vincent, Courtney Jacob, and Vanil Veigas.

“First Light” opens the album with the rolling, soothing sounds of ocean waves coupled with singing birds, before soon introducing a lovely ensemble comprised of piano, keyboard, oboe, flute, piccolo and violin. Further enhanced by its radiant wordless vocals, the composition seemingly paints an image of golden sunrays pouring through the trees of a lush forest, in what feels like a magical storybook having come to life. “The Pleasure of the Mourning Dove” follows next, a piece that aptly begins with the cooing of a dove. Here Darlene offers up a lyrical melody, her soprano voice perfectly complementing the song’s elegant arrangement of piano, violin and viola. “Kalahari Calls” is easily one of my favorite compositions herein; its African safari flavor and leisurely chill vibe conveying a sunny, tropical terrain filled with luxuriant jungles and rainforests. A mesmerizing ensemble of flute, piano and tribal percussion is further accentuated by airy wordless vocals that seem to whirl about its beautifully exotic landscape. The sound of wading through water introduces “Song of the Swans”, another lyrical song that possesses a somewhat mythical feel. Darlene’s soaring soprano vocals in tandem with the classical touches of clarinet and harp seem almost cinematic, as if a narrative has unfolded about a fairytale princess or sleeping beauty who has found herself in an enchanted land. Characterized by native flute and drumming, “Indian Summer” is another one of my favorite pieces on the album. Here I’m reminded of a glorious sunset softly illuminating a vast canyon. This image is further crystalized by sparking piano and swirling chimes, along with both siren and tribal-esque voices that seem to soar above the terrain. Equally captivating is “Ode to Our Orb”, another piece accentuated by Darlene’s soaring wordless vocals, as well as features the additionally amazing talents of David Arkenstone on guitar, along with Ricky Kej and Vanil Viegas on keyboards and rhythm. The composition’s earthily sensual and shimmering soundscape combines elements of ambient, world and contemporary instrumental music, and feels as blissfully rejuvenating as that of standing beneath a waterfall in a paradise lagoon.

Imbued with a brilliant radiance and richness throughout, listening to Color Me Home is akin to observing light hitting a giant crystal prism that emanates all colors of the rainbow. Immaculately produced, the album’s sound quality is superb and the guest performances outstanding, overall culminating in a soulfully rewarding experience that’s filled with joy, serenity and global adventure! ~Candice Michelle (
Rating: Excellent
Part of a Kindly Plan by Nathan Speir
- posted by Gena on 4/26/2017

This Nathan Speir album (Part of a Kindly Plan) is his ninth full-length recording and it is exciting, genre-pushing, ambient-chamber-music (combining ambient, new age and avant-garde with a touch of modern classical).

The album mostly contains acoustic instruments -- acoustic piano, steel and nylon-string acoustic guitars, wooden flute, cello, harmonica, rain-stick and singing bowls -- but a couple of tunes also include a little synthesizer (primarily replicating a string-section). In addition, Speir says, “Silence has a big place in my music and I pay a lot of attention to the spaces between the notes.”

This is gentle, soft, generally fairly slow, meditative music that allows your mind and spirit to drift and float and explore special spaces. The album begins with the vibrant-ambient sound of “Hued Embowment” and ends with the nearly-nine-minute meditational “Breathing On This Shore.” In between are instrumental pieces such as the rapid and melodic “Passing Charcoal Clouds” and the slow, peaceful “Serenity In This House.” The music is improvisational, experimental and refreshing in its uniqueness. This recording is a perfect opportunity to let your ears take you on an adventurous journey along an unmarked trail.
Rating: Excellent
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